I Left My Heart in The Redwoods

Written on September 26th, 2017

A month ago my fiancé and I woke up in a misty forest, a small creek running right behind our tent, towering pines staring down at us in our clearing. I looked at my ring for a few moments in the soft light, and it took all of my willpower to leave the warmth of my blankets behind.

We packed up our bags and loaded the car once more — it was the eighth day of our road trip and we had become quite efficient — and then, before I knew it, we were saying goodbye to the Redwood National Forest.

I never knew that in two short days one place could grow to mean so much to me.

We had arrived at the focal point of our road trip itinerary early on Thursday, August 24th. I bubbled like a little kid as I felt the Pacific Ocean and inhaled the soft mist dancing through the air. I was bursting with energy the entire day; from our stop at the visitor’s center to the first moments we actually turned off the GPS and used the old-school map given to us, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

When we entered the forest, the trees were bigger than I ever could have imagined. We stopped countless times to take them in, capturing pictures and stealing kisses and looking up in awe at the destination 2,300 miles from home we had somehow managed to reach.

It would have been perfect just like that: two 20-somethings holding hands and embracing nature. But when Matt proposed, the entire forest stopped for a beat. I still don’t fully remember everything he said. The breeze quit blowing. The sunlight ceased to flicker. And all I know is that I collapsed as I said “yes!”… and the rest of our reprieve in that beautiful national park was more wonderful than I ever thought life could be.

I loved every stop on our 15-day road trip, but the Redwoods still stick out to me as the best. They were beautiful — tall, ancient, absolutely majestic — and now they mean so much to me for what they represent: the commitment to share life with my love.

Since I’ve come home, I still have moments where I wake up in the morning and think I am in a dimly-lit tent greeting the sun. I have dreams about the way the ocean chased down the beach, both when I am asleep and awake.

I remember every detail — the antlers on the elk we watched, the feeling of driving up into a cloud and being swallowed whole by mist, the way Matt’s hand felt on my arm as I shook with disbelief.

I never knew nostalgia could be this strong.

I will be at work entering student information to the business school website, and someone’s hometown will be in California — and just seeing “CA” on the screen will flash me back to our adventure.

I will wake up for a sunrise walk here in Madison, and the lake air will smell just like Crescent City. I will be journaling in my notebook and suddenly the feeling of the paper beneath my hand will transport me back to holding a worn out map. In my heart, I don’t think I ever left.

There is so much to look forward to, and I cherish the promise of every adventure to come… but a piece of me will always take up home across the country. I have been changed by those old pines — and my heart will ache until I can return to them again.